LACONIA — Although some 470 Bhutanese, Congolese and Iraqi political refugees are expected to be resettle in Manchester, Nashua and Concord next year, none will find homes in Laconia, where refugees were resettled every year from 1998 to 2011.
Barbara Seebart, refugee coordinator at the Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said last week that Ascentria and the International Institute of New Hampshire, with which the state contracts to place refugees, stopped sending people to Laconia during the recession for lack of employment opportunities.
She hastened to say that "Laconia is a wonderful resettlement site," citing the cooperative approach of the school district and the work of the Mayor's Human Relations Committee.
Seebart said that Ascentria and the International Institute do not have sufficient resources to manage resettlement in more than three municipalities, but emphasized that Laconia has not been permanently stricken from the list of resettlement sites.
According to the Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs 885 refugees were resettled in Laconia between 1998 and 2011. Susan Laverack, associate director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Inc. said the refugees consisted of Bosnians, Meskhetian Turks from Russia, Bhutanese from Nepal, Sudanese, Laotians, Ethiopians, Iraqis and displaced persons from Sierra Leone.
The Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affiars estimates that in the last 15 years approximately 6,000 refugees have been resettled in New Hampshire, representing about a fifth of the 30,000 foreign born people who came to the state during these years. However, how many remain and how many have left is not known.
Kate Bruchacova of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said that many of the most recent refugees resettled in Laconia have been members of families resettled elsewhere and they have left the city to be reunited with their relatives. Likewise, refugees are drawn to those communities where their numbers are greatest. For instance, many of the Meskhetian Turks migrated to the Midwest — chiefly Kentucky and Ohio — while the Bhutanese have congregated in Concord and Manchester. She said that in the Lakes Region, transportation is an issue for refugees seeking employment because of the distances between home and work. At the same time, housing can be a challenge for large families.
While the influx of refugees has stalled, the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, together with more than a dozen partners — including the city and School District — is pursuing the Greater Laconia Immigration Integration Initiative, a series of initiatives "to ensure that all community members feel welcome and have what they need to participate, contribute and succeed."
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